The only valid grounds for divorce, according to Section 95 of the Women’s Charter (Cap. 353) is the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. To prove the irretrievable breakdown of marriage you would need to prove at least one of the following:
· that your spouse has committed adultery, and you find it intolerable to live with him or her· that your spouse has behaved in such a way that you cannot reasonably be expected to live with him or her· that your spouse has deserted you for at least two years· if your spouse agrees to the divorce, that you and your spouse have been separated for at least three years· if your spouse does not agree to the divorce, that you and your spouse have been separated for at least four years.
Annulment is also a means of legally separating from your spouse if you have been married for less than 3 years. However in order to be eligible or to have a good chance of having your marriage annulled you would need to prove that certain specific circumstances are present, i.e. showing that your marriage was void or voidable. You can find examples of void or voidable marriages listed below.
While a voidable marriage is a marriage that is legally valid until it is annulled by a judgment of nullity. For voidable marriages, some recognized examples include:
· Non-consummation of marriage due to inability
· Non-consummation of marriage due to refusal
· Lack of fitness for marriage due to mental disorder
· Spouse has a sexually-transmitted disease at time of marriage
It is usually harder to seek an annulment of a void marriage than a voidable marriage as a marriage license would not be issued to parties who belong to the above-mentioned categories.
The effect of an annulment is that the marriage had never existed at all. This means that the Singapore Courts will assign all property back to the original owner as it was before the marriage. This may be an advantage if you want to retain ownership of your original assets.
Family Justice Courts in Singapore are divided into three Courts – the Family Courts, the Youth Courts, and the Family Division of the High Court. There is also the Syariah Court of Singapore which handles, amongst other matters, Muslim Divorce.
The Family Courts is the primary Court where cases regarding family matters are heard, except for cases pertaining to the Children and Young Persons Act (Cap. 38, 2001 Rev. Ed.), which are referred to the Youth Courts instead.
The High Court primarily hears appeals against decisions ruled by the Family Courts, but claimants may apply to have their cases transferred to the High Court, such as for complex cases.
Assets such as your matrimonial home, the family car or motorbike and even the balance in your bank account may be considered as Matrimonial assets which may be divided between you and your spouse.
Division of matrimonial assets is one matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Courts during divorce proceedings. Such assets include assets acquired by either party during a marriage, commonly enjoyed by both parties or significantly improved by one’s partner during the marriage. (Women’s Charter, Section 112(10)) Gifts from third parties are commonly not included, unless significantly improved as stated above.
The division of such assets is not necessarily aimed at equal but equitable division, and considers the following (Women’s Charter, Section 112(2)).
• Contributions made by each party to acquire, improve or maintain the assets
• Debts and obligations undertaken by each party for the sake of the family
• The needs of the couple’s children
• The extent of contribution by each party to the welfare of the family
• Agreements made between the couple regarding the division of assets
• Grace periods of occupation and other benefits in matrimonial homes enjoyed by one party which exclude the other
• Support given by one party to the other
• Other determinants of maintenance orders (see below, What maintenance is a partner obliged to provide?)
The Court has jurisdiction over matters involving the custody of children. The starting position of the Courts is to award joint custody to both parents.
If there is a risk of abuse against spouses or when cooperation between both parents seems impossible, access to the children is usually granted to the party to whom custody was not awarded. Supervision of access may be ordered if there is a risk the accessing party may abuse the children.
Past cases have shown the Court awarding custody while including the following orders:
• Non-separation of siblings
• Preservation of status quo living conditions
• Need for maternal care in young children
Removal of children subject to such custody orders from Singapore is generally not permitted unless 1) given written consent by both parents or 2) the granting of leave by the Court. (Women’s Charter, Section 126(3)) In granting such leaves, the Court considers the benefit of the removal of the child, and if the removal is an action of goodwill.
Couples filing for divorce who have children under the age of 14 have to attend compulsory mediation and counselling sessions. Such sessions will help them work out child care and access arrangements. Additionally, the Courts may order couples to attend such sessions as they see fit. (Women’s Charter, Section 50(3A-3E))
Maintenance is yet another matter given to the jurisdiction of the Courts in divorce proceedings. Only females and incapacitated males may claim spousal maintenance from their ex-spouses (Women’s Charter, Section 69).
In ordering maintenance payments, the Courts aim to preserve status quo financial positions of both partners as far as possible. During divorce proceedings, Courts may order interim maintenance payments of conservative amounts.
According to Section 114(1) of the Charter, factors taken into consideration for orders of spousal maintenance include
• Financial resources and earning capacity of each party as far as foreseeable,
• Financial needs of each party as far as foreseeable,
• The status quo living conditions of the family,
• The age of each party and the duration of the marriage,
• Physical or mental disabilities in each party, if any,
• Contributions by each party to the welfare of the family, and
• Value of the marriage to each party.
Courts may also order child maintenance to be paid for any child of the couple, by birth, adoption, or membership of the family, under the age of 21. Children over the age of 21 are also entitled to such maintenance if (Women’s Charter, Section 69(5))
• They are mentally or physically disabled,
• They are serving full-time National Service,
• They are undertaking education or vocational training, or
• Any other special circumstances necessitate.
According to Section 69(4) of the Women’s Charter, in addition to the considerations for spousal maintenance, another consideration is the ordering maintenance for the education of the child.
Yes, Contested Divorce and Ancillary matters take a long time to get resolved and you can expect to spend more on legal fees when going through such matters. If you and your spouse are able to come to an agreement on how the matrimonial assets are to be divided and how the Custody, Care and Control & Access Arrangements for the Children you can consider going through an Uncontested Divorce.
An Uncontested Divorce is a simplified divorce process. The entire process will take you about four months long. You will receive your interim judgement within one months from the date of filing your documents and your final judgement
Ultimately, the decision lies in your hands. At I.R.B Law LLP
we understand that these are emotional times and we strive to make this process are painless as possible.
At IRB Law LLP
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